Organic, non-GMO stevia supplier Pyure Brands has sweet success
Founder: Ben Fleischer
2018 Revenue: $25.5 million
Growth 2016-18: 70%
If you see a sugar-free energy drink or soda containing organic stevia at the grocery store, there’s a good chance the sweetening agent came from Naples-based Pyure Brands. Pyure supplies organic, non-GMO stevia to some of the largest food, beverage, cosmetics and dietary supplement brands in the U.S., says CEO Ben Fleischer. “We work with companies from Coca-Cola to Burt’s Bees. If you see ‘organic stevia’ on the back of the package, 80% of the time we’re supplying them,” he says.
Fleischer, 40, grew up around the food business, pitching in from an early age at his family’s wholesale bagel company in upstate New York. After graduating from the University of Maryland, he returned home to help run the family business.
He says his “aha!” moment came when he tried a dietary supplement made with another company’s stevia and noticed it had a “horrible” aftertaste. He started experimenting with stevia to create a better-tasting, natural alternative to sugar and artificial sweeteners and eventually launched Pyure out of his condo in Naples.
“Sugar-free products have a stigma of being bad-tasting or using chemicals. That’s not our M.O. We’re going to use the best ingredients and actually make it taste good,” he says.
In addition to supplying sweetener ingredients to the food and beverage industry, Pyure has its own line of stevia sweetener and stevia-sweetened products. The company gets its stevia from Asia and uses contract facilities across the U.S. to package its products. “There’s a whole extraction process designed to create the best-tasting stevia in the marketplace. All that extraction is done in Asia,” he says.
In 2010, Whole Foods began selling Pyure stevia sweetener packets nationwide. Three years later, Walmart agreed to carry Pyure sweetener products, and Publix followed suit in 2018. Today, the company’s products also include energy shots, maple syrup, honey, cocoa powder, hazelnut spread and baking mixes. Sales increased 70% from $15 million in 2016 to $25.5 million in 2018.
Fleischer says he continues to develop new sugar-free products and will soon add more R&D space in Naples.
“We started out as a sweetener company, and now we’re becoming more of a lifestyle brand. We’re not just doing sweeteners anymore,” he says. “To create a sugar-free Nutella alternative is a game-changer. We’re pushing into gluten- and dairy-free and vegan. We’re getting into all sorts of products.”
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